From experience, I’ve learnt that the only way out is through. For those of us with an eating disorder, that means tackling fear foods head on. And I don’t just mean challenging the fear once, never to confront it again afterwards. You’ve got to do it again, and again, and again.
This is pretty unpleasant. I’ve experienced more anxiety and stress from food than anything else in my life. That feeling before eating a fear food has led to waking up at night, nightmares, sobbing, and even tantrums in front of my parents (I am twenty two!). Unfortunately, it’s something we’re going to have to go through in order to recover.
I still have fear foods. In fact, I’m finding that now that I am weight restored, I am attempting to use a lot of avoidant behaviours in regards to eating things which freak me out, or my eating disorder deems as ‘bad’. I now think that my previous attitude of ‘well, I may as well eat it, because I need to gain weight anyway’ was damaging for my present self. Saying that, I have overcome a lot! How? Repeatedly eating the things which make me want to run away screaming hysterically.
At the beginning of recovery, I started eating a little more chocolate. But two pieces a week was still ‘too much’, and would be preceded by a lot of stress and overthinking. Only when I began following Minnie Maud did I also force myself to eat a bar of chocolate every day. You know what? It worked. Sometimes I still have small, anxious thoughts, but I usually eat a bar or a few squares of chocolate every day without really stressing about it.
I am not saying this is easy. I’ve been through the crying and tantrums listed above. I’ve literally wanted to throw plates of food across my kitchen when I’ve visited my parents. Additionally, it’s not always possible to include some fear foods daily like I did with chocolate – facing my fear of frappuccinos every day would leave my bank drained! I encourage you, however, to keep challenging fears as often as you can. And yes, sometimes you may have to give yourself a break for a day or two. This can be so, incredibly emotionally exhausting.
Avoidant behaviours can only be undone by doing the opposite of what your eating disorder tells you. This can be so, so painful, and I really recommend journalling your feelings, or speaking to a therapist. But you will get there, eventually, I promise.